Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=226554
Story Retrieval Date: 9/21/2014 5:10:00 PM CST
Chicago’s City Council wasn’t kidding around Wednesday when aldermen voted overwhelmingly to ban e-cigarettes anywhere traditional cigarettes are forbidden.
The law, passed in a 45-4 vote, will also force stores to move the e-cigarettes behind counters and ban their sale to minors.
“I’m not waiting for the FDA … to lead from behind,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, taking a shot at the Food and Drug Administration’s failure to issue regulations on the battery-powered product that works by eliminating smoke and adjusting the amount of nicotine smokers ingest.
As of 2011, 21 percent of adult smokers have tried e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012, 10 percent of high-school and middle-school students admitted to trying e-cigarettes, a CDC survey says.
Supporters argued that the vapor emitted by e-cigarettes contains potentially harmful carcinogens, although their presence has not been proven. They also said e-cigarette use is a gateway method that encourages children to smoke.
Since no harm has been proven, opponents said, e-cigarettes should not be regulated. Besides, smokers have successfully used e-cigarettes to quit smoking, they said.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), a smoker, said he has tried to use e-cigarettes to kick the habit and thinks they are a viable alternative to cigarettes.
Reilly’s aim is to reduce harm caused by nicotine products, and he wants to avoid putting e-cigarette users “right next to the people on the curb smoking.”
Restricting sales to minors was central to Wednesday’s debate.
Ald. Rey Colon (35th) criticized the council for “using children as an excuse for any ordinance we want to pass.”
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said he changed his mind after having to explain the difference between e-cigarettes and traditional ones to his 10-year-old daughter after seeing people smoke e-cigarettes indoors.
Moreno added he is “on the side of the children who haven’t started smoking yet.”
“The use of these e-cigarettes is being glamorized and has the potential to reverse decades of progress,” said Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who sponsored the ordinance.
James Martinez, spokesman for the American Lung Association in Chicago, said the ordinance is a win for those who choose not to smoke e-cigarettes.
“We’re just happy that the rights of everyone else are protected in terms of breathing clean air,” Martinez said.